Would you choose a medieval walled town in Tuscany? What about a pretty Alpine village? Maybe a hidden beachside getaway, or a whitewashed town among the olive groves?
It’s a tough call, but Skyscanner’s Italian website had a go at listing what they think are the 20 most beautiful small towns in Italy.
The criteria for towns to be featured was that they must be well preserved, feature local characteristics, and have a population of less than 35,000.
Is your favourite Italian village on the list?
1. Avise, Valle d'Aosta
With no fewer than three castles, the small town of Avise in the Valle d'Aosta region dates back to the Middle Ages when it was home to the region’s oldest noble family. It wasn’t chosen just for its historical importance, though; Avise is also incredibly picturesque. The centre features Romanesque bell towers and tiny wine bars where locals sip Petit Rouge, the fragrant red wine produced in the area.
Avise. Photo: Enrico Romanzi
2. Canelli, Piedmont
This timeless village, in the UNESCO World Heritage hills of the Langhe, is famous as one of the world capitals of wine. It’s as pretty as you’d expect, but the main attractions here are actually underground. It’s where Carlo Gancia, known as the ‘father of Italian sparkling wine’, decided to open his historic cellar, along with many other winemakers in the area. These cellars now make up the so-called “underground cathedrals”, a network of cellars and tunnels running under the town which are thought to be unique in the world.
3. Noli, Liguria
Along with Spotorno to the north and Finale Ligure to the south, Noli is one of the most beautiful villages on the Riviera di Ponente. The ancient settlement, with its strategically important location, has been home to the Ligurians, Romans and Byzantines. It’s long been an important seafaring town, sitting on the edge of a turquoise see and crescent-shaped white beach. The Castello Ursino stands over the city, giving it bags of medieval charm.
Noli, Liguria. File photo.
4. Lenno, Lombardy
On Lake Como’s Costa della Tremezzina, set in a cove so stunning that it was named after the goddess of beauty, Lenno is not loved only for its lakeside views. The picturesque village attracts gourmands with its famous olive oil production, said to be some of the best in Italy thanks to the mild year-round climate.
5. Molveno, Trentino-Alto Adige
On Lake Molveno , in Trentino-Alto Adige , the town has an incredible position between the cool waters of the lake and the snowy peaks of the Dolomites. It attracts millions of visitors every year with sunshine or snow along with its dramatic natural surroundings, but the village itself also boasts treasures like the Church of San Vigilio and a sixteenth-century sawmill, the Antica Segheria Taialacqua.
6. Marostica, Veneto
In the province of Vicenza, this town is best known for a giant chess game; in September the town’s Giant Chessboard on Piazza Castello comes to life. All year round though you can enjoy the town’s famous cherries, walk under the arcades and enjoy the many shops and cafes in the ancient heart of the town.
7. Tricesimo, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
This ancient town of Roman origin, in the province of Udine, won its place on the list thanks to its position in a glacial valley, and its impressive castle, churches and streets, which draws lovers of medieval history and religious architecture. At Christmas, the atmospheric town’s nativity scene is also the most famous in the region.
8. Torriana, Emilia-Romagna
With a panoramic view of the sea, the town has been nicknamed the “balcony of Emilia-Romagna.” Torriana is said to have some of the best views in the whole region, set in a protected natural park. Together with the nearby village of Montebello, Torriana is a lesser-known tourist destination featuring castles, ruins, towers and art galleries.
8. San Miniato, Tuscany
In the province of Pisa, this characteristically beautiful Tuscan town has everything you’d hope for: ancient architecture, rolling landscapes and gastronomic wonders. The pretty Sanminiatesi Hills are the source of the area’s prized white truffle; the biggest truffle in the world was found here in 1954. Other wonders include the 200-year-old Duomo, with its unusual clock, and the Tower of Federico II.
10. Campello sul Clitunno, Umbria
A magical fortified village suspended in time, Campello sul Clitunno has attractions ranging from the UNESCO-listed Temple of Clitunno and the Fonti del Clitunno, which were considered sacred by the Ancient Romans. Then there’s the magical lakeside location, a well-preserved castle, and the Church of San Donato with its wooden altar.
11. Ripatransone, Marche
Visitors will find medieval, renaissance and baroque influences squeezed into the tiny historical centre of the village of Ripatransone, known for being home to the narrowest alley in Italy. The cobbled streets give way to a tiny lane just 43 centimetres wide, so small that it hasn’t even got a name. The position of the town on top of a small hill between two rivers adds to the charm, as does its reputation for producing excellent honey and olive oil.
12. Pizzoferrato, Abruzzo
High in the forested hills of the rugged and rocky region of Abruzzo, at an altitude of some 1,200 metres, is the village of Pizzoferrato. A pile of houses seems to rise from the rock by magic above the Sangro River Valley , in the province of Chieti .The mountain village itself has narrow alleys, stone buildings including the Church of the Madonna del Girone, and a timeless atmosphere.
13. Castel di Tora, Lazio
Picturesque to say the least, Castel di Tora is one of those hidden Lazio villages surrounded by natural parkland. Famous landmarks are the nearby Antuni Castle and Turano Lake which, though artificial, is a beautiful mirror reflecting the mysterious village, which is riddled with by narrow streets, houses, arches, stairways and passageways.
14. Municipality of Ischia, Campania
It’s not strictly a town, but this green island in the Gulf of Naples, near Capri, made the cut anyway. It’s famous for its stunning hillside villages, crystal clear waters and traditional cuisine. As well as pretty beaches such as those at the Bay of San Montano, it has natural hot springs, the Aragonese Castle and the picturesque village of Sant'Angelo with its colourful villas.
15. Sant'Angelo Limosano, Molise
Hikers and nature lovers will want to explore this pretty village and its rural surroundings in the province of Campobasso. It’s said to be the home of Pope Celestino V, and to get there you can take the famous Celestinian Route, the same that the hermit monk himself travelled back in 1294 to reach L'Aquila and take the papal appointment. In the village, three levels of medieval rampats lead to the impressive church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo.
16. San Pancrazio Salentino, Puglia
Between the provinces of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto, in the centre of the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot, this village sits on land inhabited since ancient times. As you might see from the surrounding olive groves and vineyards, it’s is best known for producing red wine and olive oil. A glass of negroamaro isn’t the only attraction here, though; the town has churches and palaces to explore while nearby countryside boasts the Li Castelli Archaeological Park, a settlement dating back to the Iron Age.
17. San Fele, Basilicata
Photos of the village from above famously show the roofs of the houses seeming to form a chessboard. But seen from the streets, the hidden village of San Fele is just as beautiful, with artistic and religious treasures such as the ruined fortress, the Church of the Annunciation and the Palazzo Frascella. Nearby you’ll find waterfalls and the mysterious Abbey of Santa Maria di Pierno.
18. Nicotera, Calabria
Pretty houses with ochre roofs cling to the hillside high above sandy beaches and clear waters, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Aeolian Islands and the Strait of Messina.In Nicotera, historical treasures include its castle and the Cathedral of Santa Maria. Fresh seafood is served everywhere, and the scent of citrus lingers in the streets in summer.
19. San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily
With a beach that rivals the Caribbean, the village of San Vito Lo Capo is unsurprisingly one of Sicily’s most popular summer resorts. Its long, white sandy beach and colourful sunsets are not the only draw; the village has plenty of tradition and history. Visit the Moorish Chapel of Santa Crescenzia, the lighthouse or the nearby Zingaro Reserve.
20. Santa Maria Navarrese, Sardinia
Powdery white sand beaches and turquoise waters are what holidays on the Mediterranean are all about and the tiny village of Santa Maria Navarrese, part of Baunei,on the Sardinian coast is surrounded by some of the very best on the island. Apart from beaches like the incredible Cala Luna its attractions include a marina and medieval church.